Brian G's First Ever Ramblings

To introduce myself a little more; I am definitely what you would call a "hardcore" gamer (I hate that term, but it definitely gets my point across). I was a Genesis kid growing up (which started way back in the early 90's, and my hatred and disgust for Nintendo, despite that my later acquired SNES is still in perfect working condition and I still have my original FF2 and FF3 carts), but began my gaming days at the ripe age of 6 on my dad's Apple IIc (I ironically also harbor a loathing for Apple as well, mostly because they have a multi million dollar national advertising campaign designed to alienate me from their products, but that's another rant all together). Okay I really am not a hate filled negative person, but I am a nerdy fanboy so there is that component. You know exactly what I'm talking about. I like to think I'm in like company here. Moving on to a more interesting topic then my gaming habits...

Earlier this week I talked about what's going on with Infinity Ward and I think it's really indicative of an age old problem that has always existed in all creative industries; the balance of business and art. For better or worse art is a product in our global society and thus is treated like a commodity. Artists want to express themselves and business people want to make money. If you let an artist take complete control of a project it can often be as much of a disaster as when business trends dictate the development process.

As much as I enjoyed the game Brutal Legend, I firmly believe it would have been much better if Double Fine had a publisher breathing down it's neck. For those of you that don't know, Brutal Legend is the brainchild of the extremely talented Tim Schafer. I would argue that Tim Schafer's best work was when he was a part of Lucas Arts in the early to mid 90's. He was an incredible writing talent who was part of something bigger than his vision and ego. He had bosses to answer to and I'm sure lots of deadlines to hit. I would argue that the work was better for it.

Brutal Legend enjoyed almost a 5 year development cycle for a game I finished in under 8 hours. (Note: in contrast the development cycle for GTA4 was about the same for a much more polished game that took about four times as long to complete). The single player campaign, despite being a brilliant vision with outstanding writing, felt like it had more parts chopped out then actually made it into the game. The end result was a glimpse of perfection with a lack of polish so glaring that it really took what could have been a benchmark, classic game to a middle of the pack (albeit CERTAINLY NOT generic) forgettable sandbox release. Schafer undoubtedly has the talent, but with the talent often comes lack of focus.

To tie this back into Infinity Ward and current events over at Activision, they are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They quite clearly are treating creative talent like a very common resource that can be easily acquired. Creative chemistry in any medium is something that always hangs in a very delicate balance. To elaborate on my insinuations from earlier this week I would liken the decapitation of Infinity Ward creative heads to the ousting of David Lee Roth from Van Halen. In Roth's career with Van Halen they released 6 albums and sold 33 million copies. After Roth was out and singer Sammy Hagar came in they released 5 albums and sold 15 million copies. That's an average of 5.5 million copies per album with Roth and 3 million for Hagar. That's about 183% higher sales figures with Roth at the helm rather than Hagar. Getting back to my original point is that if you mess with a proven creative chemistry you can still have success, but its very difficult to make the lightning strike twice.

Of course the jury is way way WAY out on whether Infinity Ward will still be able to crank out AAA hits. Most likely they will continue to make well received shooters, but will they ever be able to top the success of COD Mewtoo? Only time will tell.

To wrap things up guys, please comment! Let me know what you guys think of my rantings and how you feel about it all!